The Pump

BY MEGHAN WILSON

We had a relationship, you and I

I cared for you,

cleaned you, 

planned my days and nights around you

 

Sometimes, I suffered

As I longed for you,

 even dripped for you

(bilaterally)

 

I can still see you, in my mind’s eye

Wide-open hungry flange with soft silicon bumps, 

folding to thin, tender lips 

wrapped around hard plastic

Convenient wide base, to screw on bottle

 

26-hour call

You were in the red bag with the ice packs, my food in another bag

 (funny, how I don’t remember the food bag)

I was constantly thinking about, angling around, asking permission for,

  achingly needing

    our time together

 

All food had to be eaten with one hand,

While I pumped with the other

    Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze

    Chew, chew, chew

 

I wished I could read or relax while I ate

Though, perhaps this way was better,

because I thought of my babies instead

 

Missing them

 

In my recollections, I am always missing them

 

But I had you; I had our relationship

And society endorsed you, at least, if not me

By the proxy of the pump

By the elongated, swollen, bluish-purple nipple

By the red suction-cup marks

By the pffft-swish-drip of yellowish milk

Collecting

In the wide-neck bottle attached to the pump

 

It all said: 

 At least you are doing something right

 At least you are giving him this

If not yourself

If not your scent

If not your touch, your voice, your words, your time

 

You can always hope that maternal tenderness is conveyed

That he knows how you long for him

When his father holds him

And gives him your milk

 

So, thanks pump

For having my back

For helping me pause and reflect when, if not for you, I would have been holding a book or a phone

For helping me to feed and to feel

 

When I had no choice

 

But to perform

 

___________________________

I wrote this piece with a certain setting in mind - the call room of the OB ward at Belleville General Hospital. I was a PGY2 family med with a 4-year-old, 3-year-old, and infant. My baby had severe CMPA and needed amino acid formula and of course, breast milk. I pumped for all my babies, but this exact setting is stuck in my mind. It was an incredibly difficult time in my life, but no one would have known it by the way I acted or performed. I was a true imposter, then, and for many years thereafter.
At any rate, this poem came to me just this summer. My children are all long past breastfeeding age, and for whatever reason, that single, manual, advent-brand pump insisted that I write about it one day. So I did. I think the poem is a combination of humour, sadness, gratitude, and suffering.... sort of like life.
Dr. Meghan Wilson is a family physician in Kingston, Ontario.

1 comment

  • Well-written – I get it.

    Rose Zacharias

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